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Nissan design regains coherence with Invitation concept

Nissan's recent vehicles have either been boring or shown off disjointed designs. The Invitation, a small car with a dynamic design, changes all that.

Nissan Invitation
The Invitation is a new design Nissan will use as the basis of a small car for Europe. Nissan

At the 2012 International Motor Show in Geneva, Nissan will show off a small car concept with striking new design language.

For the last couple of years it seemed like Nissan's design department was playing exquisite corpse with its vehicles, one designer taking over where another left off, not looking at the previous section of the car. Both the Juke and the Quest seem a mishmash of styles, while earlier design cues, such as the boomerang headlight casings from the 370Z and GT-R, haven't made it past the sports cars.

Then there's the coherent but conservative design of the Versa, leading to a nondescript little car that will have people wandering around parking lots for hours trying to find it.

But the photos just released for the Invitation concept show a car with a solid and attractive design. The wide grille stretches across the front of the car, fitting into cutouts in the headlight casings. The lower air intake and parking lights mirror the upper half of the front.

The side shows a powerful contour line that runs down the back, then forward, hooking back again in the front doors. Nissan calls it the Squash Line. To paraphrase The Dude, it really ties the car together.

Nissan has not released many details of the concept, which will be the basis for a new European B segment car alongside the Juke. But it seems likely it would use the same engines as the European Juke, a variety of 1.5- and 1.6-liter four-cylinders burning either gasoline or diesel.

Nissan says a production car based on the Invitation would boast the most advanced technology in the segment. The LED headlights seen on the concept probably would not make the transition, but the car would include Nissan's around-view monitor system.

The bad news is that Nissan is designating the concept as the basis for a new European car, not a U.S. car. Nissan probably would not want to displace the Versa in the U.S. market with a new car, as the Versa's sales are good. And the company updated the Versa for its 2012 model, and that car would not be due for an update for at least three years.

Strangely, where other automakers are seeing manufacturing efficiency in marketing world cars, Nissan seems to be going in the opposite direction, building different cars for specific markets. And U.S. buyers seem to favor sedans and boring design in the small-car segment.